Ardern announces trans-Tasman travel bubble start date

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that a two-way trans-Tasman bubble between Australia and New Zealand will begin at 11.59pm on 18 April.

Australia’s border has been mostly open to New Zealand travellers since October last year, with visitors from across the Tasman able to visit without undergoing mandatory hotel quarantine.

The arrangement was always expected to become reciprocal at some point, but there were delays caused by the December outbreak in NSW and various instances of the UK strain of the virus popping up around Australia.

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Ms Ardern told a press conference on Tuesday that while quarantine-free travel between the two countries would begin in a fortnight, it would still be very different to the way things were pre-COVID.

“Cabinet was presented with advice today that conditions for opening up quarantine-free travel with Australia had been met,” Ms Ardern said.

“The director-general of health considers the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from Australia to New Zealand to now be low, and that quarantine-free travel would be safe to commence.

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“While we absolutely wish to encourage family and friends to reunite and visitors to come and enjoy the hospitality New Zealand is ready and waiting to offer, those undertaking travel on either side of the ditch will do so with the guidance of flyer beware. 

“People will need to plan for the possibility of travel being disrupted if there is an outbreak.”

Ms Ardern explained that in creating the two-way trans-Tasman bubble it would be akin to treating Australia as a region of New Zealand when making decision on restrictions.

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“If a case is found that is quite clearly linked to a border worker in a quarantine facility and is well contained, you’ll likely see travel continue in the same way as you could see life continue if that happened here,” Ms Ardern said.

“If, however, a case was found that was not clearly linked to the border, and a state responded by a short lockdown to identify more information, we’d likely pause flights from that state in the same way we would stop travel into and out of a region in New Zealand as if it were going into a full lockdown.

“And if we saw multiple cases of unknown origin, we would likely suspend flights for a set period of time.”

The New Zealand government has also worked through what would happen if there was an outbreak in Australia and what that would mean for New Zealand residents or vice versa.

“In each situation travellers in an affected state should expect two things,” Ms Ardern said. “First, they must follow the guidelines locally. Second when travel does resume and they are able to come to New Zealand again, they could be asked to do one of four things depending on the risk.

“Either, simply monitor their symptoms on return. Two, take a test before they depart. Three, isolate on arrival. Or four, possibly in some situations, go into managed isolation for up to 14 days.”

Ms Ardern explained that once the bubble was opened, travellers from Australia would be able to make a booking on a ‘green zone flight’, which means there will be no travellers on the flight that have come from anywhere but Australia in the past 14 days.

Travellers on those flights will also be flown by crew who have not flown on any high-risk routes for a set period of time.

All Australian travellers to New Zealand will need to provide comprehensive information on how they can be contacted while they are in the country.

“When they fly, they will be required to wear a mask on a flight and will also be asked to download and use the NZ COVID Tracer app for use in New Zealand,” Ms Ardern said.

“On arrival, passengers will be taken through what we’ll call ‘the green zones’ at the airport, meaning there will be no contact with those arriving from other parts of the world and going into managed isolation or quarantine facilities.

“We will also be undertaking random temperature checks of those arriving as an extra precaution.”

Are you excited by the prospect of quarantine-free travel to New Zealand? Will you travel to New Zealand once the travel bubble opens?

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Written by Ben



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